Formula 1

Chinese GP Preview: Mighty Mercedes set for Shanghai showdown

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There is no doubting Mercedes head into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix as favourites to claim a fourth win in a row.

The Silver Arrows revealed just how good they are in the final 11-lap dash to the finish in Bahrain, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pulled out a 24-second gap to third place man Sergio Perez in the similarly powered Force India.  

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact they pulled out such a margin while also having one of the biggest wheel-to-wheel battles for the victory seen in some time.

Their advantage over the field is such that it will take a long time for the others to catch up but heading to Shanghai the chances of a similar two-second per lap gap to Red Bull is unlikely.

The Shanghai circuit is split into two distinct parts, the first and second sector is about handling with medium speed sweeping turns and the long, tightening right hander of turns one to three are one of the most demanding in the sport.

However the final sector is all about straight line speed with the 1km back straight which will see these turbo powered cars clear the 200mph (320kph) barrier.

As a result you can expect Red Bull to be faster than the Mercedes for two-thirds of the lap with the power of the Brixworth made V6 power unit making all of that time up in the final third.

In a year when inter-team battles are fierce the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as a match for the four-time champion Sebastian Vettel is one of the big stories worth watching.

The young Australian beat the German in a straight fight in Bahrain, so you can bet for sure Vettel will not go down lightly this weekend.

The huge battle for best of the rest will continue between McLaren, Ferrari (now under new team boss Marco Mattiacci), Force India and Williams.

It will be very interesting to see how Ferrari go under their new Team Principal and whether that has any effect on the track, with the long straight I do expect them to be easy pickings for the Mercedes-powered teams around them, however, like Red Bull the greater need for good aerodynamics may help them.

Williams will be praying the weather, which is notoriously fickle in Shanghai, holds. While Force India may not be quite as strong at this track which requires a higher downforce set-up than Bahrain.

Again on a driver level, the response of Nico Hulkenberg to being out-performed by Sergio Perez for the first time will make for an interesting sub-plot in the battle for points.

For a team such as McLaren judging their rate of development as compared to the midfield teams of previous years around them will be key in predicting how they perform, I wouldn't be surprised to see them again fighting for the top six this weekend.

Just outside the top ten positions there is another good midfield scrap building between Lotus and Toro Rosso. The need for straight line speed rather put Toro Rosso on the back foot in Bahrain, though like Red Bull, on the twistier Shangai track expect Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat to again be knocking on the door of some points. 

As for Lotus the first in-season test last week didn't appear to be a successful one, however, after Romain Grosjean again finished in Bahrain there is still some hope their season can be salvaged.

But for Pastor Maldonado, he is once again being talked about more for his reckless driving than his speed. His collision with Esteban Gutierrez at the last race was one of the most dangerous seen in some time but with what most see as a light penalty for the incident, some are questioning what it will take for the Venezuelan to learn his lesson.

Sauber continue to very much disappoint, Gutierrez has had some decent qualifying performances in Malaysia and Bahrain but it is developing the C33 into a points contending car that remains the big focus for the Swiss team.

Finally at the back, the constantly changing battle for 10th in the Constructor's Championship between Marussia and Caterham. 

Despite a positive start, Caterham appeared to have the edge at the last race and the gap to Sauber ahead wasn't too big either.

China can become an unpredictable race, particularly if it rains, so don't rule out either team improving on their best result of 13th, which Max Chilton managed in Bahrain putting Marussia back ahead of their Norfolk rival.

Having spoken about the weather, also set to play a part this weekend is tyre degradation. Pirelli have brought the same medium and soft compounds that were so troublesome last year.

Though this year's tyres are harder, still expect plenty of pit-stops and perhaps another hurdle for Mercedes, who seemed to have the worst tyre degradation of all, to overcome.

There is no denying, however, it would be a major surprise if Mercedes did not continue it's current domination, though the pecking order will be scrambled again for the honour of 'best of the rest', the most important battle will likely see the third instalment of Hamilton vs Rosberg.

Both have won in Shanghai before as Nico claimed his first win in F1 there back in 2012, for Hamilton he has mixed memories as few will forget his retirement in 2007, the moment some believe cost him the title in his rookie year, though he also famously passed Sebastian Vettel late on to win in 2011, the first time the German had been beaten that year.

With a fine margin expected then, another classic showdown between the two team-mates is all but assured and if it is anything like it was in Bahrain, well then it can't come soon enough!

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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